Teeth and gums are a few of the many areas of the body that are often damaged by smoking. Dental health isn't out of reach for long-term smokers, but it does require more attention and effort. Meanwhile, smokers may benefit from understanding the links between smoking and dental problems, and the damage to teeth and gums that can take place below the surface and out of sight. Learn more about the connection between smoking and teeth.
The tar and nicotine in cigarette smoke can give teeth an unattractive brownish stain, but smoking is also a major cause of tooth loss. So, how do you explain the link between smoking and tooth loss? Most of the explanations are related to poor gum health and periodontal disease.
When the gums become inflamed or infected, especially over the long term, the root portion of the tooth can begin to disintegrate. Worse, the area of the jawbone that surrounds the tooth and holds it in may begin to disintegrate, too. If this process of decay continues unchecked, the end result is simple: The substance of the bone surrounding the tooth can no longer hold the tooth in, and it falls out.
The most serious connections between smoking, dental health and tooth loss aren’t necessarily related to the tooth itself--most of them originate in the gums. Bacteria and inflammation deep down between the tooth and gum contribute to gum disease and bone loss. Smoking makes every stage of this problem worse.
First, smoking decreases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the gums. This slows healing times, compromising the body’s ability to fight bacteria and recover from stress, damage and inflammation. Small battles being fought below the surface of the gums, at the root of the tooth, are less likely to end in victory for a smoker.
Smoking also compromises immunity, so disease resistance is lower in smokers. Once harmful bacteria gain a foothold, the body has fewer defenses to hold them off.
Smoking and dental care aren't incompatible. If you aren’t ready to quit smoking, dental health care is something you should take seriously. Consider flossing and using an antiseptic mouth rinse at least twice a day, in addition to brushing with an electric toothbrush. In addition to combating stains, this helps your gums fight bacteria in the space between the tooth and gums. This clean, fresh feeling may provide yet another incentive to quit smoking.
If you haven’t yet quit smoking or aren’t ready to quit, ask your dentist to check your mouth for lumps, leukoplakia and discoloration, which may be early signs of cancer. Smoking vastly increases the risk of mouth, tongue and throat cancer.
Brichford, C. (2009). Tobacco use and your oral health. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/dental-health/101/dont-smoke.aspx
Health News. (2010). The effects of smoking on oral health. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from http://www.healthnews.com/dental-health/effects-smoking-oral-health-370.html
Johnstone, G. (2010). Smoking and dental care. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from http://www.yourdentistryguide.com/smoking/